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  1. Default Month Long 7k mile road trip to Natl Parks

    We are attempting to plan a road trip with two adults and three kids (ages 5,7,8) in a minivan. We would like to go from Florida to Mt. Rusmore,Yellowstone,Washington state,Oregon,Yosemite,Grand Canyon,and back home to Florida. From the Grand Canyon to Florida we are open to other stops. We have roughly a month to complete the trip and would like if possible to keep lodging expenses to no more than 100/day. In a couple of locations(Wa,Oregon,and AZ) we can stay with family and friends. For the rest we were thinking maybe KOA campgrounds or low budget hotels. Please throw tips,suggested attractions,and lodging tips our way. Food if possible we'd like to limit on the road purchases and eat more picnic style. There will be one driver age 30 and the other adult about age 60 along for the ride. Not sure what other info to post.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA!

    Lodging at $100/night or less ... well, some places will let you rent one room for 5 people and will pull in a rollaway bed for the 5th person, but not all of them will. If you are thinking KOA cabins as a low-cost idea -- well, maybe. You're almost better off, if you can deal with it, buying a couple of tents and some sleeping bags, and camping it most of the way. At least you won't have to deal with the "4 to a room syndrome" that many motels have. You definitely will not be able to stay in the national parks on a $100 budget, nor could you even stay at West Yellowstone's budget motels (which start around $119/night) or Tusayan (Grand Canyon) AZ budget hotels, which start at around the same.

    For food, you can bring along a small grill, or (for motel nights) an electric fry pan, because you can come up with some terrific meals from those two things.


  3. Default

    Thank you for responding! We were thinking since family/friends will be available part of the way we'd be able to stay occasionally in places above 100. With keeping costs down to below 100 a night most of the way it will allow for the adjustments.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Other Considerations

    Saving money on a RoadTrip is not just a matter of finding the cheapest room rate each night. For some other hints and things you need to keep in mind check out this article. The numbers may be a bit out of date, but the advice is solid. The same holds true with this informative posting. But even with that in mind, lowest price does not mean most economical or best deal.

    Most nights, I'm afraid, your best bet would be to find a low-end chain such as Motel 6, Red Roof, or Super 8 and get two rooms. If you choose your overnight stops carefully (near freeway exits in the middle of nowhere, certainly away from big cities and military bases), make use of coupons available at welcome centers as you enter many states, and watch the roadside advertising carefully, you'll be able to get those two rooms for around or even less than $100 many if not most nights. That will let you put the kids to bed early in one room and let the adults stay up a bit and unwind in the other.

    As others have noted, near major national parks and other tourist attractions, cheap rooms will be hard to come by. Options to consider in those cases, besides blowing your budget, include camping in nearby national forests and state parks, or doing a 'drive through' visit where you pull up for the night about an hour or so short of your target attraction, get an early start the next morning and spend pretty much all day at that site, then get an hour or so down the road in the evening or until lodging prices start to drop. Admittedly, that approach won't work for huge, multi-day parks such as Yellowstone, but it is a strategy that can work well elsewhere.

    Also be sure to make use of as many free activities as you can. Start with an annual National Parks pass for $80. Buy one at the first national park or monument you come to (The year starts at point of purchase.) and it will grant you, your car, and everyone in it entrance to every national park and monument you come to. It does not, however cover concession or camping fees. Another great freebie in our national park system is the Junior Ranger Program. Ask what's available at every facility you come to. Typically the kids will be given a set of activities to do that will help them enjoy and learn about the park and when completed they get some very nice - free! - souvenirs. State parks and national forests are other great resources for free or very low cost daytime activities.

    Speaking of the kids, be sure to get them involved in the planning so that they get invested in the trip rather than just being dragged along. Show them your basic route on a map and let them each pick a few spots along that route that they'd like to see. Also plan on occasionally finding a motel with a good pool and just staying put for a day. Neither you nor the kids will be able to keep up a month's worth of go, go, go pace. And as you note, once in a while just splurge and spend some of the money you've been saving by skimping most nights. The object is for everyone to have a great trip at the best price rather than to just spend a month on the road at the lowest possible price.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Maps and more...

    Adding to all the good advice and tips above, it may pay to make sure you have a roadside assistance package such as AAA. If you are a member of AAA, be sure to go there and pick up a map of each and every State you plan to cover. Or you may prefer a road atlas such as Rand McNally. Since these maps all show many if not most of the attractions along your route, the children could pick out some. In fact I would not be surprised if the older ones would not be able to look up details about their choice on the web. At Welcome and Visitor centres in most States, you will find you can also pick up a free State issued map. Sometimes you will find an attraction on one of the maps, which is not on the other two. (Can't have too many maps.)

    Good maps are invaluable during the planning process, as they show routes, towns, attractions and scenic routes. They are also essential when you are on the road. Do not be tempted to rely solely on your electronics. Many have done so at their peril.

    Be sure to check out the Beartooth Hwy/Pass into the north east entrance of Yellowstone. It is a wonderful drive. The children will love it, as will you. Especially the stop at the top of the pass, and the views. You may also on that route consider stopping at the Top of the World Store, before continuing onto Cooke City and into Yellowstone.

    And leave just a little flexibility for those unexpected gems you'll find along the way.

    Have a great trip.


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